St Giles’ Church announces its presence to passers-by and parishioners
by ringing its bells. The church has its own active band of bellringers. The bells are rung regularly before the two principal Sunday services and for practice on Thursday evenings, and also at other times: for weddings and other special occasions; when requested by visiting bands of ringers from other towers; and as continuous performances aimed at a higher standard of ringing: either quarter peals (45 min) or occasionally full peals (3 hours).
The St Giles’ ringers are always keen to welcome new members, and to teach complete
beginners. Anyone aged from 10 upwards who has the co-ordination to
ride a bike or swim, and to beat time to a tune, should be able to learn to ring.
Enquirers would be welcome to come and see what happens in the tower and to have a try at handling a rope. Groups of up to four visitors at a time would be welcome, especially on Thursday evenings before the ringers’ main practice, and preferably by arrangement in advance through the Tower Captain, John Pusey
Details and History of the Bells
There are eight bells in the tower at St Giles’, hung for swinging full-circle,
After being retuned in 2011, the tenor (the heaviest bell) now weighs 14 cwt
(1569 lb / 712 kg), and is pitched almost half a semitone below standard
F-sharp. It is also the oldest bell in the tower, and was cast in 1632.
There were four bells in St Giles’ tower by the mid-18th century, increased to six
in 1850, and to eight in 1927.
John Betjeman wrote about these bells in ‘Before the Anaesthetic’ (1945) : “St Giles’s bells, they richly ring”; and ‘You ancient, rich St Giles’s bells”; but also: “Intolerably sad, profound, St Giles’s bells are ringing round”. More detailed information can be found here and documents about the bells here.
Inscriptions on the Bells
Tenor (8th) : FEARE GOD HONAR THE KING 1632.
7th : Sum Rosa Pulsata Mundi Katerrina Vocata
(I that am struck am called Catherine, a rose of the world)
6th : Sonitus Ogidii conscendat culmina Coeli
(Let the sound of Giles ascend the heights of heaven).
5th to 1st: Magnificat, Benedictus, Gloria, Te Deum, Venite
- Sunday morning: 9.45 to 10.30 a.m.
- Sunday evening: 5.45 to 6.30 p.m.
- Thursday evenings 7.30 to 9.00 p.m.
There may occasionally be cancellations on Sunday evenings and at
Access to the ringing chamber is from behind the organ at the west end of the church: past the toilet, through the kitchen, then up steep steps and a short ladder.
St Giles’ Tower is affiliated to the Oxford Diocesan Guild of Bellringers (ODG)
For further information about English-style bellringing, see: The Oxford City Branch of The Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers, The Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers, The central council of church bell ringers